When to Rethink A Friendship
Diane Barth says ditch the ones that don’t bring joy
“I Know How You Feel: The Joy and Heartbreak Of Friendship in Women’s Love” by psychotherapist Diane Barth arrived on my doorstep at the exact moment I’d decided to reassess how, where and with whom I spend my time. I realized I‘d been maintaining many friendships more out of obligation and a nostalgia for “old times”––for when we were young marrieds or when our kids played together–and not asking myself whether or not I’d choose to friend these women if we met today.
When I spoke with author Barth, I learned that questioning friendships is perfectly reasonable and even healthy, especially at this stage of life. As we get older, time becomes more precious and you shouldn’t be wasting it on friendships that drain or deplete you.
“Sometimes, when a friend hurts you or betrays you, the angry feelings are so strong that you feel like your way is clear, even that you don’t have a choice but to walk away,” says Barth “But sometimes you just drift apart, or you stop sharing values or interests, but there’s a history that keeps you together. One woman told me that a friend had so many troubles that she felt that she could not abandon her, but that their friendship really consisted of nothing more than her listening to yet another painful story of what had gone wrong in her friend’s life. Sadly, she dreaded seeing her friend’s name pop up on her phone; but she didn’t feel like she could walk away.” Barth says you don’t have to remain your friend’s psychiatrist: that sometimes, walking away is best for both parties.
But you can also reassess. “Sometimes, when you imagine your life without [your friend], you realize that you’re not quite ready to let go,” says Barth. “And sometimes, that’s the moment to consider revisiting what has come between you. Did she say something that bothered you? Did you do something that bothered her? You might want to talk about it, or you might not; but once you’re aware of whatever the rupture was, you can make a decision about whether it was enough to ruin your friendship [or] whether it’s part of a pattern that has been making you less comfortable.
For her book, Barth conducted interviews with women from all over the world and from various socio-economic religious, racial and ethnic backgrounds. ”I talked to women wherever I found them — clerks in my drugstore and checkout ladies in the grocery store, receptionists, florists, moms with kids in strollers on the street, cleaning ladies, teachers, actresses, anyone I came across in my travels,” says Barth “Everyone seemed to be eager to share their stories .”
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